July 11, 2011

Trend-spotting in Punditry Land

Filed under: Guest Comment — Tags: , , , — Bob Patterson @ 2:32 pm

Manohla Dargis authored an essay for the Sunday, July 10, 2011 edition of the New York Times that applied some of the information in the new book “The Invisible Gorilla” to the art of film reviewing. She elaborated how movie directors often go to extensive lengths to manipulate the audience’s attention. Bloggers will find that much of what she was trying to teach rookie film critics also applies to the art of political punditry and they are encouraged to read it online or on page 13 of the hard copy’s Arts and Leisure section.

The book contends (and Ms. Dargis seconds the idea) that sometimes folks get so intent on something that they see what they want to see and disregard all the rest (as lies and jest?). Haven’t magicians been making a comfortable living based on that principle for decades? Don’t they call it “The Three card Monty” Shuffle? Didn’t Banksey use the converse of that principle as the basis for his “Elephant in the Room” installation in Los Angeles, a few years ago?

Aren’t the efforts of the JEB Bush campaign to win the 2012 Republican nomination a viable example of the Invisible Gorilla book’s contention that (to rob another book title) Naked is the Best Disguise? Heck, if Karl Rove goes on the Sean Hannity radio show and while assessing the various candidates’ chances overlooks JEB, isn’t that proof that if he has fooled himself into forgetting about JEB’s efforts, then all the peons in Punditvania will also drop JEB from the evaluation process? Whew! Maybe the Fox Hacking team will also be fooled and not bother to pry into JEB’s telephone answering machine and come up with an embarrassing scoop? Wouldn’t that be a very lucky break for the JEBster?

Ms. Dargis suggests that “inattentional blindness” and “change blindness” help perpetuate some of the visual frauds in cinema.

Wow! What would happen if a Democratic President promised “change” and subsequently Karl Rove imposed the principle of “change blindness” on his pals in the national media who were searching diligently for opportunities to have a “Eurika!” moment in the contemporary political perception arena called “status quo chaos”?

Did we mention that Harry Houdini was the first person to pilot an aircraft flight on the continent of Australia?

Ms. Dargis quotes theorist David Bordwell as saying (on his blog) that “perceptually films are illusions . . .” and that reminded this columnist of the time (as a kid) when we asked an aunt who loved Western Movies, if so many of the actors, who were hired to be Indians and cowboys, were getting killed each week, why didn’t Hollywood run out of actors? At that point we were informed that the weekly images of massive massacres were only people playing pretend. (Just like with the bombings to kill Col Qaddafi?)

Boy, do the pacifists in Berkeley get pissed when they see film purporting to show massive carnage in Iraq? Dude, relax, it’s just a movie! Isn’t it ironic that a city known for the Peace symbol is home to a weapons laboratory?

Ms. Dargis then quotes a British psychologist, Dr. Tim Smith, about the fact that directors and actors do the same thing that magicians do: i.e. get the audience to look where they want them to look so that they miss seeing/learning something else that might spoil the fun/effect/surprise.

Our favorite British psychologist is Rupert Sheldrake and a quote about his concept of morphic resonance might have been germane to the topic, but oh well, you don’t always get what you want (but if you try some times?) . . .”

Wouldn’t it be funny if Roger Ebert wrote a review saying that remake of “The Italian Job” was a good summer action flick but nothing close to an existentialist drama and then some online fellow wrote a review that was peppred with quotes from Camus and Sartre showing that it was a superb example of existentialism in the cinema?

The American military got a line for the Marine Corps song when they fought the Barbary Coast pirates, then they went back to the same local to kick Rommel’s ass and turn the tide (“It is not even the beginning of the end.”) in WWII, and so Col. Qaddafi had best mind the American’ folk wisdom: “Three’s the charm.”

Is it true that on some liberal aggregator web sites that the contributors are not permitted to write about using cuts in the Social Security program to help solve the Budget crisis because such wild unsubstantiated speculation sound suspiciously like a conspiracy theory? Isn’t the President’s willingness to sanction such an obvious solution to the problem while all the other Democrats “can’t see it,” similar to the Invisible Gorilla principle?

Isn’t it time for political pundits to start gathering some facts about movies depicting cars driving off a cliff for some hip cultural references in their budget crisis commentaries? In “North by Northwest,” Carry Grant almost drives off a cliff. In “Rebel without a Cause,” and “Thelma and Louise,” cars do drive off a cliff.

For bloggers who are partisan cheerleaders the fact that they will have to work harder in the next year to support President Obama and help get out the vote for his reelection seems to be their equivalent of the Invisible Gorilla.

For curmudgeonly columnists, who see their mission as being critics of the status quo, their Invisible Gorilla moment might be to ask if there should be an investigation into the possibility that the Murdock media in the USA may have used the same methods of journalism as they did in Great Britain. (Would it be an example of überhubris to assert that only folks who have read every word in Ulysses can maintain that a practitioner of three dot journalism is obtuse?)

If major league Football and Basketball disappears in the USA, what’s going to happen next Spring at baseball training camps? Will Fox cable sports channel start to use their Australian facilities to provide a feed for cricket and rugby matches? Will Americans suddenly start wearing West Coast Eagle T-shirts?

How many Fremantle **ckers fans live in Concordia Kansas? (Not even Mike Malloy can legally say the name of that team on the air.) If the number of **cker fans in that Kansas town grows perceptibly that would be a real change, eh?

Speaking of Tricks; did Houdini teach an Australian publisher the lesson that if an elephant disappears, it’s much harder for folks to sue that elephant? Isn’t it obvious that it is harder to sue a paper empire that has been dissolved? It’s just like the lyrics of the song: “Why deny the obvious, child?”

President Obama is asserting that if the budget crisis isn’t solved ASAP, there will be a double-dip recession. As far as the Republicans are concerned, isn’t that like B’rer Bear and B’rer Fox threatening to throw B’rer Rabbit into the briar patch?

Tom Wolfe has written: “The young architects and artists who came to the Bauhaus to live and study and learn from the Silver Prince talked about ‘starting from zero.’”

Now the disk jockey will play Ray Steven’s “Gitarzan,” and “Harry the Hairy Ape,” and Ernie Kovacs’ Nairobi Trio’s version of “Solfeggio.” We have to go investigate the mysterious circumstances surrounding the death of St. Ronald Reagan’s costar, Bonzo. Have a “keep your eye on the ball” type week.

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